Molecular imprinting enables the design of highly crosslinked polymeric materials that are able to mimic natural recognition processes. Molecularly imprinted polymers exhibit binding sites with tailored selectivity toward target structures ranging from inorganic ions to biomacromolecules and even viruses or living cells. The choice of the appropriate functional monomer, crosslinker, and the nature and specificity of template–monomer interactions are critical for a successful imprinting process. The use of a metal ion mediating the interaction between the monomer and template (acting as ligands) has proven to offer a higher fidelity of imprint, which modulates the molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) selectivity or to endow additional features to the polymer, such as stimuli-responsiveness, catalytic activity, etc. Furthermore, limitations in using nonpolar and aprotic solvents are overcome, allowing the use of more polar solvents and even aqueous solutions as imprinting media, opening new prospects toward the imprinting of biomacromolecules (proteins, DNA, RNA, antibodies, biological receptors, etc.). This chapter aims to outline the beneficial pairing of metal ions as coordination centers and various functional ligands in the molecular imprinting process, as well as to provide an up to date overview of the various applications in chemical sensing, separation processes (stationary phases and selective sorbents), drug delivery, and catalysis.
Part of the book: Ligand